|The day the Hospital of Hope opened: March 2015|
In early August I posted a Facebook teaser about a big life change coming. Little did I know how fortuitous that post would be. I was planning on announcing that after 10 years of living overseas, I would be moving home at the end of October—well, to my previous home at least, the US.
Three weeks after that post, I found myself taking a sensory walk in my sister’s neighborhood outside of Louisville, KY. I had received a phone call about a family emergency the week before, and was on a plane back from Togo to the US a few days later (So much for October!) A sensory walk is designed to focus on one of the 5 senses for a period of time before moving on to the next one. I had never done a sensory walk before, but thought it would be a helpful exercise in focusing on the Lord and the unexpected events that had taken place both acutely and in last 10 years of my journey.
I began with listening, and tried to close my eyes to help myself avoid the distractions of what I could see. My starting point happened to be at the top of the hill, and as I walked I could hear my soft footsteps and the birds, someone getting into their car, and the wind rustling the trees. But the terrain quickly changed to the steep uphill on the other side of the cement valley I had walked into. With each step, the sounds around me disappeared, drowned out by the noise of my own panting breath. As I neared the top of the hill I was deaf to everything around me except my own out of shape lungs! I assume the birds were still chirping and the wind blowing, but the beautiful soft sounds of nature were replaced with the sound of struggle.
I couldn’t help but think back over some days, weeks or even years of struggle in Togo. It was now so clear how those struggles often drowned out the beauty that was surely co-existing beside it. Presently, my sister and her immediate family were being dragged up hill and I knew their hearing would be soon overtaken by the sound of their own breath. I remembered the gifted people who had come alongside me during my time spent walking uphill. Some provided company for the journey, some provided encouragement despite the pain, and some even carried me for a time. I came home when my sister needed me because I knew I could now provide those things for her.
After reaching the top of the hill it was time for seeing. The road flattened out for a time—a period of rest and recovery. After the uphill battle ends, one needs a time of steadiness and predictability. A time to recover from what has taken place but to also look ahead and what is coming and prepare. In my walk, I could see that more hills and valleys were ahead, but I valued the quarter-mile stretch of flatness to collect my breath and my thoughts.
“These are the stretches of life where decision making should happen”, I thought. Many times we tend to make life decisions in the free-fall of downhill, when all things seem easy and nothing could stop us. The other temptation is while we are struggling uphill and can’t imagine going any further. But both of these periods are motivated by emotion, and in many ways, made in blindness. We are swept away by “falling in love” with a person or idea and no one can stop our momentum, or we are worn down by the climb since the longer it goes, the more hope dwindles that it will ever end. I remember learning in driver’s Ed. that you can never pass on an up-hill because the closer you are to the peak, the less and less you can see what’s coming ahead. Both of these situations are tainted and can lead us astray when making decision about where the Lord is leading us.
Thankfully, I had a year of walking a relative flat road. It was a time to reflect and build-up and be poured into by friends, family, and counselors. It was a time to stop and pause to look back at things the Lord had done, with still having enough room to look and see what may lie ahead. And it was during this time I was given a settled peace about saying good-bye to the work here in Togo and moving towards what is next. Even on this sensory walk, surrounded by family emergencies and uncertainness, all I felt was peace. The last few months in Togo, I have had to sit with close Togolese friends and explain that I was leaving. In one conversation with a closest friend he said, “but as you are talking about leaving you seem so happy”. I explained that I my heart was heavy to go, but that there is a joy that comes with walking in the direction you know has come from the Lord.
So where am I going? What direction am I headed in? Graciously, two years ago the Lord put a vision on my heart and on the heart of a colleague and best friend. This vision has come to be known as Iron 2 Silver. In Isaiah 60:15- 17 the Lord is declaring the renewal and redemption of His people, an exchange of the old for the new:
“…you shall know that I, the Lord, am your Savior and your Redeemer, the Mighty One of Jacob. Instead of bronze I will bring gold, and instead of iron I will bring silver; instead of wood, bronze, instead of stones, iron.”
A standard of care is needed in medical missions, we like to call the Silver Standard—a standard that can be attained, followed and modeled in the resource limited setting that changes survival rates, improves quality, and gives patients the dignity and love of our profession both as medical practitioners and followers of Christ. We have seen that excellent care can be delivered in low income settings here at the Hospital of Hope, and we are excited to help other mission hospitals attain what has been possible here at HOH, and more! So many people are serving and working in other hospitals that need a practical hand in improving care. The desire exists, but the time and resources don’t. We want to be the bridge to help them.
We believe that medicine is not just a platform for ministry, but is also ministry in itself as we use our profession to bring quality care to those most in need. We give our best because we are all made in the Image of God and His love is demonstrated by bringing dignity and proclaiming truth while raising the standard of care whenever possible. As we partner with faith-based clinics and hospitals around the world, we are committing to helping them find appropriate ways of honoring people through better, safer care, one step at a time. We want to partner with these ministries in areas they identify in training, resources, consultation and on-going monitoring and evaluation.
To run this program effectively, Sarah and I will be stationed in the Louisville, KY (YAY!!!) and traveling to the mission hospitals as needed, but consider this our full-time jobs. As we make this transition, we are desiring to build a team that consists of multiple layers:
1. PRAYER SUPPORT: We don’t want people to feel like joining us as prayer supporters is a second level of support—a way to support us if you can’t join us financially. We want prayer WARRIORS! The Lord moves in us and through us all using prayer. Prayer is how we bring the Kingdom of Heaven near to us! Let us know if you will be joining our prayer team and we will be creating a separate group via WhatsApp/Signal in order to communicate prayer requests and answered prayer. We hope this will become a family in which we will bring each other’s requests before the throne regularly.
2. RESOURCE SUPPORT: The Lord has gifted you with knowledge and ties to resources that we don’t have! This could be an expertise in a particular area, access to supplies, or access to people/relationships that our partners could benefit from. We know that the body of Christ has been fully equipped as a whole, but that as individuals we cannot fulfil these needs on our own. Let us know how you are gifted and if you are willing to use these gifts to improve care in other parts of the world! Another resource you have is the social and professional circles you have! Do you know others who may be interested in partnering with us to bring excellence in health care regardless of where someone was born? We’d love to meet them!
3. FINANCIAL SUPPORT: Your first thought may be, “she is living in America, why does she need financial support??” Although I will both be re-entering the American medical system on a very part-time basis, I am hoping to be able to work on i2S programming full-time, whether overseas or here in the US, and will be a full-time medical missionary of the Christian Health Service Corps. If you are interested in joining as a financial partner, this can be done by joining the i2S team! CHSC is allowing us to raise funds for i2S all through the same i2S project fund. For any of you who would like to support our project financially, these funds go directly towards our support and all the i2S projects. Currently, the only way to give is through Text to give by texting i2S to 41444 and follow the link! You can also click here: http://igfn.us/f/1rsyme. If you need a way to mail in to CHSC, that is also possible.
Those of you who have already been giving financially over the years to my work at ABWE and would like to continue to support the work at ABWE, please let me know, as great work will continue at the Hospital of Hope. I will continue to work with HOH on the Surviving Takes Hope cancer program!
Although I was pulled back to the US prematurely, the Lord acted in miraculous ways during our family emergency and I was able to come back to Togo for 2 weeks so I could properly say good-bye to my friends and family. (I will save that story for another day).
The end of October marks 10 years since I first left for the mission field and it’s hard to capture all the thoughts and emotions involved in letting go. The work has always been the Lord’s and He will move it forward long after I go. I can already see a small glimpse of how He will use each valley, each mountain top I experienced here in Togo for future work—that nothing will be wasted. I read back over past blogs and reflect on the countless stories never written, but His story is never just about one place, one person, one dream. Our God is writing all of our stories and weaving them together for His pleasure, His perfect pleasure. My life and journey in Togo isn't the end of my story, but the turning of a page.
I will be back in Louisville on October 25th and would love to meet up with any of you to catch up and discuss life. Sarah and I have already begun working with ministries around the globe through Iron 2 Silver, and I look forward to sharing more soon.
My gratefulness to you for your partnership in the Gospel over these many years could never be properly expressed. May His Grace and Peace cover you in the days ahead.